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What does the contraction ain't mean? Is it appropriate to use it in formal settings?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Ain't is the same as aren't and means are not but it is also used for am not, is not, has not, have not.

It definitely should not be used in formal settings.

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According to @nohat's research in the linked question, it started life as a contraction of am not and are not both. I'm not quite sure how that works :-) – user1579 Jul 7 '11 at 11:06

From the Merriam-Webster:

Main Entry: ain't
Pronunciation: \ˈānt\
Etymology: contraction of are not

Quoting @nohat :

The common bit of schoolyard wisdom that “ain’t ain’t in the dictionary, so ain’t ain’t a word” turns out to be untrue. Every online dictionary that I’ve ever looked in contained an entry for ain’t.

It is a colloquial word, informal, so probably shouldn't be used in formal settings,unless you are a politican:)

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The OED lists it too (it even has two entries!) – nico Jul 7 '11 at 6:41
Well LOL, OMG, and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious are in online dictionaries. Does that make them real words? Even 'haz' as in "I can haz cheezburger" is in Meriam Webster's online unabridged dictionary. – redbmk Jul 7 '11 at 17:59

Replaceable with am not, is not, and are not. It used more informal/colloquial conversations.

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